“I didn’t know we were going head-to-head,” frontman Matthew Shultz deadpanned. “That’s alright though. I think she tweeted some really nice things about our band once, back when we were nominated for a VMA, so as long as she likes us, it’s cool.”
That ends all discussion about pop’s most polarizing star … or really, any contemporary music. Because on the stony, sonically ambitious Melophobia — which, literally means “fear of music” — Cage The Elephant make all attempts to distance themselves from everything (and everyone) currently on the charts, deciding instead to record an album that returns music to its roots.
“I think music in its barest form is a means to communicate, whether it was a circle of people around a fire banging on drums and asking for rain, or it was a guy in the 16th century creating compositions for an orchestra to play, it was something to be enjoyed by us all,” Shultz said. “It’s not necessarily a fear of music, it’s a fear of creating music to project premeditated images of self, like catering to cool, or making music to project an image of being intellectual or artistic or poetic, rather than just trying to be an honest communicator.”
“Music is the universal language. It’s a cliché, but it’s true,” his brother, guitarist Brad Shultz, added. “One of the biggest parts of this album was to communicate with people open and honestly, to put our fears out there.”
They did that by largely — or, in Matthew Shultz’s case, entirely — avoiding listening to music, and taking on what they describe as “fear-based music”: Anything that disguises truths behind flowery prose, effects-laced guitars, or studio flourishes. What they ended up with is an album that gleefully mashes genres and eras (Beatles’ references collide with Pixies riffs and Stax-era horns), roils and rants, instructs us all to dance (the epic “Teeth”) and begs us all to take a closer examination of ourselves (first single “Come a Little Closer.”) It’s a wonderfully weird record, one that takes the past 40 years of rock, tosses them in a blender, and gleefully guzzles the resulting concoction.
The fact that it does so openly and unapologetically proves that Cage accomplished their task … which makes Melophobia not only their most accomplished effort to date, but the launching pad for wherever they go next. And they’ll get there on their own terms.
“This is the album that we could only make at this point in our careers,” Brad Shultz said. “Every album is going to be a progression, because we grow as humans, and hopefully our next album will be totally different and will show another side of us.”
“You want to learn new things along the way, and apply those new learnings to the creative process, so I feel it’s definitely the record we’ve always wanted to make, and I hope the next one is too,” Matthew Shultz added. “I think the discoveries that were made during this record will hopefully shape the process for the rest of our lives, and push that process even further.”